On the Campaign Trail (late October)

Between summer vacation and writing about other things, The Curmudgeon hasn’t visited the campaign trail in a few months. Not that it hasn’t been interesting, because it has – at least, the Republican part has. The Dems are still dull as dish water, and even those who like what Bernie Sanders has to say surely realize that the guy’s not exactly presidential material.

So let’s take a look at a few of the more interesting things that have occurred since our last visit, in late July.

Donald Trump

Actually, The Curmudgeon’s not going to write about The Donald this time around. There’s too much, it’s too outrageous, and he assumes that anyone who saw the subject of today’s piece and decided to continue reading has probably heard it all – or at least heard much of it – so there’s no reason to re-hash it now.

But that’s the last pass The Donald gets; from now on, it’s gloves off.

So let’s see what else is happening on the campaign trail.

Scott Walker and Rick Perry


Ben Carson

The Curmudgeon just doesn’t get this one. He knows Carson’s a smart guy, maybe even a brilliant guy, based on his professional accomplishments, but every time The Curmudgeon hears Carson speak the same thought pops into his head.

“Is this guy an idiot?”

In response to the Planned Parenthood kerfuffle, Carson told Fox News that

One of the reason that you find most of their clinics in black neighborhoods is so that you can find a way to control that population.

Right, Ben: and it has nothing to do with a provider of care for the poor choosing to locate its clinics in neighborhoods with lots of poor people.

carsonCarson’s interest in Planned Parenthood has to do with his opposition to abortion and his belief that the attractiveness of fetal tissue for medical research could provide an incentive for women to have abortions. Carson, of course, used fetal tissue in his own research earlier in his career, but now he’s apparently seen the light.

After taking a tour of Ferguson, Missouri, scene of the 2014 riots, Carson condemned the “Black Lives Matter” movement and said the country should “de-emphasize race” and instead “emphasize respect.” A nice idea, perhaps, but sadly naïve at a time when Black people are still being pulled over by police for “Driving while Black” or even, we’re now seeing, “Walking in the street while Black.”

Carson also weighed in on Muslims in politics: he says they’re not fit to be president. It’s interesting that a man who is a member of a race that has long been painted with one broad brush – and who is himself living proof of how inaccurate that portrait is – would do the very same thing to another group.

Continuing with his foot in his mouth, Carson suggested that if Jews had better access to guns in Germany during the Nazi period, the Holocaust might not have occurred.

Yes, he actually said that.

And speaking of the Nazis, there’s this from the New Yorker:

Political correctness, Carson says, is used to keep conservatives from invoking slavery or Nazism, both of which he cites freely.  (“Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery”; We live in a Gestapo age.”)  

That’s right: he said that, too, that Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery. That means worse than Reconstruction and Jim Crow laws, worse than the continued subjugation of Native Americans, worse than Plessy vs. Ferguson (“separate but equal”), worse than the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, worse than lynchings, worse than preventing women and African-Americans from voting, worse than Watergate, worse than a Supreme Court stealing an election from the opposition party.

Finally, late last week Carson said he’d like to abolish Medicare and Medicaid and replace them with a savings account/tax credit worth $2000 a year so the people those programs serve could buy their own health insurance. That’s generally referred to as “premium support,” and the idea’s been around for a long time. The problem with premium support, just like the problem with tuition vouchers, is that the $2000 alone isn’t enough to buy an insurance plan, which means the $2000 would be utterly worthless to anyone who doesn’t have the means to supplement it with money of their own. That’s the very definition of the Medicaid population: most of those recipients are pretty seriously poor and don’t have a lot of spare cash sitting around; they’re living week to week and paycheck to paycheck – if they get a paycheck at all. As for Medicare beneficiaries, the story’s pretty much the same: living on a fixed income, most of it Social Security checks, and just scraping to get by. But Carson’s a wealthy guy and maybe he’s lost touch with the financial challenges facing ordinary Americans. There’s an entire group out there that’s lost touch with ordinary working people. That group?

They call themselves “Republicans.”

It took less than forty-eight hours for Carson to see that he had committed the political equivalent of slashing his wrists; more likely, this was pointed out to him by someone who works for Carson, because the guy seems pretty clueless. So chastened, Carson back-tracked: he no longer wants to abolish Medicare and Medicaid; he wants to “reshape” them.

Dr. Carson needs to go back to something he knows, like doctoring. Voters’ continued flirtation with this lightweight is just amazing.

Carly Fiorina

This is Fiorina’s debut in this feature; The Curmudgeon hasn’t written about her in past “campaign trail” pieces because until recently, she was about as visible as Harvey the Rabbit. Authoritative performances in two debates, though, have brought her almost to the verge of double digits in the polls, so it’s time to take a look under the Fiorina hood and see what’s going on there.

Turns out, not so much.

Let’s start with the big lie: as The Curmudgeon previously chronicled, Fiorina used her first appearance in the main show – as opposed to the opening act – to concoct a great big lie about the controversial Planned Parenthood videos. It was a great story – moving, sad, and well-told – that’s only weakness was that it was pure fabrication. Caught in her lie, Fiorina insisted, and still insists today, that her story is the truth.

Funny, though, that not a single person – neither a Fiorina supporter nor abortion opponent – has stepped forward and supported her by pointing naysayers toward the video in question.

Fiorina presents herself very well: she’s smart, employs a good mix of rhetoric and specific ideas, and knows how to make a point. She is, in fact, a walking, talking Power Point presentation.

Right now, Fiorina is playing nice – her response to a question about how Donald Trump was treating her was absolutely perfect, and she deserves credit for it – but when it comes to nut-cutting time, history suggests that Fiorina will know how to cut nuts.

Consider this, from an early October edition of the New Yorker.

Fiorina’s first run for office, in the 2010 U.S. Senate race in California, is best remembered for an Internet ad, produced by her campaign, that portrayed her primary opponent as a demon sheep with glowing red eyes.  She won the nomination, then, in the general election, produced a video showing the Democratic incumbent, Barbara Boxer, as a swollen, disembodied head.

Far nastier than The Donald calling her ugly, don’t you think?

The Los Angeles Times reports that Fiorina has been shifting her positions on some issues.

In the past – we know about her views in the past because of that 2010 Senate run – she approved of some research using fetal tissue; now, she doesn’t.

fiorinaIn the past she supported immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for illegal residents already here; now, she doesn’t.

While always a strong opponent of abortion, she said in 2010 that it was a “decided issue” and that if elected, she wouldn’t challenge the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. Now she says that if she’s elected she’ll call for overturning the 1973 ruling.

Once, she supported the 2008-2009 financial bailout; then, she said she wouldn’t have voted for it if she had been in the Senate at the time; now, she condemns it.

In the past, Fiorina expressed interest in doing something about climate change; now, she thinks environmentalists are “overzealous” and that government regulators pose the greater challenge to the environment.

What, are those regulators burning things?

The Curmudgeon’s not big on calling people on their alleged “flip-flops” because he believes people can and do change their minds and develop different perspectives on matters as time passes. But the consistency of these particular flip-flops – always in the direction of what today’s Republican voters want to hear from their candidates – reeks of opportunism and insincerity.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz, we are told, was a champion debater in college and law school. It’s been hard to tell that from his performance in the debates so far: he comes across as polished and articulate, sure, but his arguments? Weak and unfocused.

Unfocused seems to be a thing for Cruz: recently he joined with colleagues in Congress in asking the director of the National Portrait Gallery to remove a bust of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger from the museum, where it is currently part of a “Struggle for Justice” exhibit.”

The Curmudgeon respects the views of those who oppose abortion, but what concerns him about this is Cruz’s priorities: here he is, running for president, and he’s worried about a bust in the National Gallery? Really? Is this the kind of decision-making voters should expect if they elect him president?

It‘s hard not to question Cruz’s judgment. Responding on Twitter to House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement that he was resigning from Congress, Cruz tweeted that Boehner willpresumably land in a cushy K Street job after joining with the D’s to implement all of President O’s priorities.”

Really? Does Cruz really think Boehner’s going to become a partner of the Obama administration or is this just a guy who likes to hear the sound of his own voice? (Okay, around now you’re wondering if The Curmudgeon is calling the kettle black on that “hear the sound of your own voice” thing, but this is different: Cruz is running for president, not writing for a core group of about twenty or twenty-five people. Big difference.)

As the campaign rolls on and Cruz fails to capture the public’s imagination, he may be getting more reckless in his statements.  A recent fund-raising pitch offered the following statement.

Friend, I own guns. I’m planning on keeping them. But there’s a problem…Obama is coming for our guns.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. As The Curmudgeon wrote back in June, President Obama has been gun owners’ best friend: he hasn’t done anything about guns other than talk about them.

Poor Bobby Jindal

Poor Bobby is really moving now: if he can raise his current standing in the polls just another measly forty-three percent, he’ll climb all the way to the one percent level.

One percent! Meaning one out of every 100 Republican voters polled said they’d vote for him a in primary election.

One percent!

When you listen to or read about Poor Bobby, it’s not hard to understand why he’s about as popular as pasta salesman at a convention of celiac disease sufferers.

jindalA spokesman for Poor Bobby’s campaign once responded to Scott Walker’s plan to replace Obamacare by suggesting that “We suspect that he collaborated on it with Bernie Sanders.”

Really? Do they really suspect that?

While Poor Bobby complained about how the IRS targeted conservative groups when reviewing their tax-exempt status, he declared that such IRS targeting was okay with him if the targets were Planned Parenthood organizations. Do you remember which president did things like target groups he didn’t like with IRS scrutiny? Richard Nixon, that’s who.


When the Planned Parenthood dust-up started, Poor Bobby was one of the first governors to try to cut off the group’s funding – funding, by the way, that comes in the form of direct payment for services rendered. And in Louisiana, by the way, abortions aren’t among those services: the only two Planned Parenthood clinics in Louisiana have been around for more than thirty years and neither one of them has ever – ever – offered abortions. Not one. When confronted with the question of how the 5200 people served by Planned Parenthood clinics in Louisiana would get the care they needed without Planned Parenthood, according to the Washington Post,

… state submitted a list of 2,010 other providers these patients could patronize. Except this was not actually a list of family-planning practitioners; it was a list of all Medicaid-enrolled providers — including audiologists, ophthalmologists, radiologists, nursing homes and, yes, dentists.

Because isn’t  it every woman’s dream to have her dentist perform her annual pap smear?

To his credit, Poor Bobby has been pretty much alone in making it clear he believes that Donald Trump’s candidacy is ridiculous; of course, that would be more effective if anyone was actually listening to him.

Well, the Washington Post was listening when, earlier this month, Poor Bobby released his plan for federal spending and taxation. Here’s some of what the Post wrote:

Yes, you read that right. Jindal wants to engineer a reverse Robin Hood, taking money from the poor to give to the rich.

 This may not be surprising, though, given that as governor of Louisiana, Jindal has backed other measures to shift more of the tax burden onto the poor to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.

Poor Bobby is so desperate that he’s now criticizing the criteria for who gets into the grown-ups debate. He can argue all he wants, but as long as he’s polling less than one percent – and he’s definitely polling less than one percent – he should be grateful they even continue to seat him at the children’s table.

As his campaign continues to falter, Poor Bobby is starting to see no down side to making more and more outrageous statements. At a gathering in Iowa, he told someone who was unhappy with the Supreme Court that Congress should force liberal justices to recuse themselves.

Jeb Bush

A lot of us started to buy into the idea that Jeb Bush is not as dimwitted as his big brother, but Jeb’s starting to show signs that such a judgment may have been premature.

After all, in August Jeb said he would rule out torture to get information from alleged terrorists and then clarified that he wouldn’t necessarily rule out water-boarding – “enhanced interrogation techniques,” he called it. So maybe Jeb and W are two peas in a pod after all.

Politico reported on Bush’s response to the mass shooting in Oregon:

Look, stuff happens and the impulse is always to do something and it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.

That’s right: “stuff happens.” That’s what a guy who wants to be the leader of the free world has to say about something that has grown from a once-every-few-years problem to a few-times-every-year problem.

Speaking of “stuff,” Jeb put his foot in his mouth when he explained his approach to courting Black voters, saying

Our message is one of hope and aspiration. It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success.

bushThat “free stuff,” as far as The Curmudgeon can tell, is public education and Medicaid and food stamps, and one of those three things is for everyone and Medicaid, the newest of that “free stuff,” has been around for fifty years. The only new “free stuff” the government has given away in recent years is prescription drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, and that was led by – you know it – Jeb’s brother.

Something Democrats fail to call Republicans on, and Republicans continue to complain about even though it’s no longer true (and they know it), is that very few people are on old-fashioned welfare these days. Contrast this with the “free stuff” that Jeb’s friends get – government contracts, tax breaks, regulatory relief for their businesses – and it looks like it’s the rich folks, not the poor ones, who are getting all the “free stuff.”

And Jeb is so quotable that we will quote him again – this time, on the subject of Planned Parenthood.

I, for one, don’t think Planned Parenthood ought to get a penny, though. And that’s the difference, because they’re not actually doing women’s health issues. They are involved in something way different than that.

Well, for an organization that’s “not actually doing women’s health issues,” Planned Parenthood seems to be providing an awful lot of health care to women, including nearly 400,000 Pap tests a year, arranging 500,000 breast exams, and performing nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases.

No, not doing much in the way of women’s health care, that’s those slackers at Planned Parenthood.

Finally, just the other day a member of Jeb’s staff referred to once-friend, now-foe Marco Rubio as a “GOP Obama.”  Does that mean Jeb’s camp believes Rubio was…born in Kenya?  And another Jeb supporter suggested that Rubio resign from the Senate to focus on running for president.  Funny, but The Curmudgeon doesn’t recall Jeb feeling that way when his brother ran for president in 2000 while still governor of Texas.

Marco Rubio

During the last debate, Rubio said “We need to repeal Dodd-Frank. It is eviscerating small businesses and small banks. Over 40 percent of small and mid-size banks that loan money to small businesses have been wiped out since Dodd-Frank has passed.”

Does this bold assertion past muster?   It does not. A Rubio spokesman started back-tracking right away, saying that the 40 percent figure refers only to the general fall of community banks.

That’s pretty different, folks, and it’s based on a time-line – since 1994 – that started sixteen years before the Dodd-Frank law passed.

Also, it’s worth noting that the purpose of Dodd-Frank is to protect ordinary people from the kinds of abuses that led to the recession of 2008-2009. If a bank’s practices can’t pass that kind of simple muster, maybe it should just disappear.

And this wasn’t Rubio’s only debate-related gaffe. In the last debate, he said he has never supported exceptions to abortion bans for rape or incest. That’s interesting, considering that in 2013 he co-sponsored a bill that called for exactly those exceptions.

Tsk tsk, Marco.

Chris Christie

Who would have thought a guy like Christie would have trouble even getting noticed? Well, that’s what’s happened: he’s getting virtually no attention in the press and attracting very little interest among voters. He’s borrowing from the playbook of Richard Nixon – there’s that name again – and trying to position himself as a “law and order” candidate at a time when the crime rate is lower than it has been in decades.

Way to be current, big guy.

If nothing else, Christie remains a guy with a big mouth. The latest proof: last week he was thrown out of an Amtrak “quiet car” for failing to show the kind of respect for the rules that the rest of us expect of five-year-olds.

And this is a guy who accused President Obama for promoting disrespect for the rule of law?

Mike Huckabee

The Huck isn’t much for all this climate change nonsense and he’s not going to let anything as annoying as the facts get in the way of his views. So when he declared that just a single eruption of a volcano will contribute more to global warming than 100 years of human activity, it was an assertion worth testing.

And an assertion, it turns out, that fails the test. According to scientists, humans spew 100 times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year as all of the world’s volcanoes combined.

As Maxwell Smart would have said, Missed it by THAT much.”

Rick Santorum

The Curmudgeon has a theory: Santorum’s only running to correct what he believes is a popular misperception about him. When he ran four years ago he was seen as a leader of the lunatic fringe. There are so many occupants of that fringe running this year, though, that he seems downright normal.


George Pataki

The Curmudgeon’s not certain, but he thinks there was a photo of Pataki on the carton of milk he was reading while eating his Fruit Loops last week.

*            *            *

Here’s hoping that the next time The Curmudgeon visits the campaign trail one or more of these folks will be gone.

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